82% of the 60,320 micro-entrepreneurs LMDF is financing are women. This is a deliberate reaction to a striking imbalance of access to financial resources between men and women in developing countries. Even though many parts of the developing world as a whole are still financially underserved, it is women who suffer the most. Female small business owners, many of them impressively savvy and creative, struggle to obtain resources that would allow them to spur the growth they envisage.
It is our firm belief that we must address this imbalance, and this is the reason why gender lens investing is a crucial factor in our investment selection process. As we have learnt from Fo Taglia- who owns and operates a very popular fabric and clothing stand at her local market in Boundiali, in the Ivory Coast-a single loan can set a lot of things in motion.
From a local microfinance institution desk situated close to her stand, Fo obtained a 250,000 CFA loan for her business, having obtained her husband’s permission to use his motorcycle as collateral. Even though sales were stagnant at the time, the loan helped her business a considerable amount. More significantly, it changed her outlook for the better; she was convinced she could achieve her ambitions.
After repaying her loan, still inspired by the opportunities within her reach, Fo ended up asking two of her friends – fellow female business owners – if they were interested in taking out a group loan. Initially they were hesitant, but Fo’s enthusiasm quickly won them over. The loan allowed all three of them to successfully expand their operations. Business flourished and repaying the loan was not an issue. Fo was even successful enough to build a house in town for her family.
Reflecting on their accomplishments, the three friends claim that one of the great benefits of working together as a group was that it allowed them to nurture a special relationship that would prove fruitful to everyone. They offered each other mutual support, exchanged ideas, and through that helped each other grow. Fo has become an altogether more confident person and is now using her business savvy to negotiate with suppliers in big cities. She has also become a significant voice for women in her community, encouraging other women to do as she did.
To achieve #BalanceforBetter we must invest in women so that we can eliminate inequalities of opportunity and ensure that everyone, no matter what their gender, has access to the same resources that allow them to find professional and personal fulfilment. Whether it is Luxembourg or Ivory Coast, a lot of work remains to be done. At LMDF, we are proud to be a part of this global effort, offering you the opportunity to invest in a way that is in line with your values.
It is now up to you to invest and make a difference.
Article by Kevin LUX